This happened in Las Vegas, but the weaknesses in U.S. voting equipment uncovered during a summer hackathon are too important to stay there, experts say: They’re a matter of national security. A new report breaks down the lessons learned at DEFCON 25, which amounted to a concentrated attack—orchestrated in the name of public safety—on the programming… Continue Reading →
They just can’t win without cheating:
North Carolina Republicans, who have been reprimanded by federal courts for targeting minorities with voter ID restrictions and gerrymandering, passed legislation last week to eliminate primary elections for state judges next year in what critics say is a blatant and brazen attempt to take control of the state’s courts.
Democratic North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the bill on Monday, but Republicans have a supermajority in the state legislature and can override the governor’s veto.
Rep. David Lewis and Sen. Ralph Hise, Republicans in charge of the elections committees in their respective chambers, issued a statement Monday urging lawmakers to override Cooper’s veto, according to the News and Observer.
The Republican plan has two prongs. Lawmakers are considering new maps for state court districts with a plan that would require many African-American and Democratic judges to run against each other. While that effort has yet to pass the legislature, lawmakers last week passed the separate bill that would, among other things, get rid of primary elections for state judges.
Democratic Rep. Marcia Morey, formerly the chief district judge for Durham County, called the Republican effort a “1-2 punch.”
This is not tax reform, it’s just another tax cut. So the Koch group Americans for Prosperity is spending seven figures to run this ad against Tammy Baldwin:
WASHINGTON — After conducting more than 100 interviews and reviewing over 100,000 pages of documents, leaders of the Senate Intelligence Committee still cannot rule out the possibility that Donald Trump’s presidential campaign colluded with Russia’s cyber operation aimed at helping him win the White House. “The issue of collusion is still open,” said Sen. Richard Burr,… Continue Reading →
Billionaire Robert Mercer and his wife Diana donated almost $200,000 to the legal defense fund of the Republican Party on the day that President Donald Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey, financial filings show. The combined $193,400 donation the Mercers made on May 9 went to the GOP legal fund that Trump has been drawing… Continue Reading →
In an unprecedented and entirely suspicious move, the EPA has decided to spend $25,000 in taxpayer money to create a soundproof booth for EPA administrator Scott Pruitt to hold private conversations. This is just the latest maneuver by the head of the EPA to create a sense of privacy in his offices, and it can only… Continue Reading →
One of the first cases that the Supreme Court will hear this term could make a huge difference in how legislative and congressional districts are drawn. In Gill v. Whitford, Wisconsin Democrats claim that Republicans drew lines that virtually guarantee GOP control of both houses of the state legislature.
A lower court struck down the Wisconsin districting system as an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander – an impermissible manipulation of district lines for the benefit of the party in power. A Supreme Court decision upholding that ruling could prevent the party in control of each state’s redistricting process from drawing lines in its favor.
This case will force the Supreme Court to tackle questions that have long gone unanswered. Can the courts actually rule on partisan gerrymandering? And if so, how will they evaluate such claims?
Rise of the gerrymander
Partisanship always has been a big factor in redistricting. The term gerrymandering was coined in 1812, after Massachusetts Gov. Elbridge Gerry approved a plan in which one district was shaped like a salamander. Both parties have tried to manipulate district lines to their own advantage ever since.
Two recent factors have led to increased concern about partisan gerrymandering all over the country. Sophisticated software makes it easy to manipulate the lines for partisan advantage. And growing ideological polarization between the parties encourages them to do that. In the past couple of years, lawsuits over partisan gerrymandering have cropped up in Maryland, North Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
The Supreme Court has never struck down a partisan gerrymander, but it has rejected other districting manipulations. The “one-person, one-vote” principle means districts should be roughly equal, so that everyone’s vote is equal. And racial gerrymandering is impermissible.
This is what makes the Wisconsin case so noteworthy. Its potential impact might explain why more than 50 amicus briefs have been filed by a wide range of groups whose interests could be affected by whatever decision the Supreme Court makes.
In Gill v. Whitford, the justices face two important questions.
First, may courts even consider partisan gerrymandering claims? The Supreme Court has given mixed signals here. A 1986 case, for example, ruled that courts could consider partisan gerrymandering, but found no constitutional defect in Indiana’s legislative districts. But in another case from Pennsylvania in 2004, four justices concluded that courts could not consider partisan gerrymandering claims, while a fifth rejected the challenge on the merits.
Finding a manageable legal standard for partisan gerrymandering might be more complicated than it is for other districting problems. In one-person, one-vote cases, for instance, a court can look at population differences between districts.
Racial gerrymandering disputes can be complicated, but courts have devised rough and ready tests. The Supreme Court had no trouble striking down the Alabama legislature’s almost surgical redrawing of Tuskegee’s boundaries to remove virtually every black voter from the city while leaving every white voter in place.
But in places with racially polarized voting, it can be challenging to tell whether a case involves a racial gerrymander or a partisan gerrymander. Although the Wisconsin case doesn’t really pose this problem, it has arisen in many others.
Testing the boundaries
Still, if we accept that districting is “fundamentally a political affair,” as Justice Sandra Day O’Connor once put it, how much partisan manipulation is too much? Any answer to that question involves some type of statistical analysis, and courts are not terribly comfortable with math.
Some states require that their districts be compact and contiguous, meaning that they have more or less regular shapes and that all parts of the district are geographically connected. However, that’s not explicitly embodied in federal law. The Wisconsin Democrats have offered a relatively simple index called the efficiency gap as a measure of partisan gerrymandering. This index estimates how many voters are packed into safe districts, instead of being spread out to make more districts competitive.
A number of leading scholars, including the expert used by Wisconsin Republicans in drawing the state’s legislative districts, contend that there are other generally accepted methods for evaluating partisan gerrymandering claims. For example, a partisan symmetry test would explore whether one party has to get more votes than the other party in order to win the same number of seats.
But the Wisconsin parties disagree about that contention. The Republicans contend that these tests are too complex and fail to provide a “limited and precise” standard for evaluating partisan gerrymandering claims.
This gets us to the second question that the Supreme Court might have to address. If the justices agree that courts may decide partisan gerrymandering cases, they then will have to determine whether the Wisconsin districting system violates the Constitution.
The Constitution doesn’t say anything explicit about gerrymandering of any kind. The basic argument against it says that partisan gerrymandering is inconsistent with basic concepts of self-government. Parties who challenge partisan gerrymandering couch their arguments in terms of the Due Process and Equal Protection Clauses of the 14th Amendment. Some commentators also have suggested that partisan gerrymandering violates the First Amendment.
This means the Supreme Court will have to decide whether the lower court’s decision to reject the Wisconsin district lines was legally sound. The justices could uphold that decision. Or they could decide that the lower court used an incorrect legal standard and remand the case for further consideration under the correct standard.
The stakes in this case are enormous. If the Wisconsin Democrats win, we should expect the minority party in many states to sue over redistricting plans that advantage the majority party. This already happens in one-person, one-vote disputes, as well as in claims of racial gerrymandering.
But if the Wisconsin Republicans win, we can expect even more partisan manipulation in redistricting, a process which must be done after every census. This will make it easier for representatives to choose their voters rather than for voters to choose their representatives.
Neither outcome provides grounds for optimism. Either court proceedings will generate uncertainty over district lines or politicians will maneuver for partisan advantage.
Maybe this Wisconsin case will encourage greater use of independent commissions for redistricting. This is how Arizona, California, Idaho and Washington do it. And the Supreme Court in 2015 upheld the Arizona system against a constitutional challenge. Or we might devise other ways to elect legislators.
But let’s not be naïve. Politics, as Mr. Dooley long ago explained, ain’t beanbag. How district lines are drawn is only part of the problem of promoting responsible government.
This fucking guy. I gotta tell you, back when he was just another teabagging back bencher, people on the Hill commonly referred to him as a sleazy crook — and that was before his corrupt little stock transaction. So no, this asshole doesn’t deserve the benefit of the doubt:
The White House approved the use of military aircraft for multi-national trips by Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price to Africa and Europe this spring, and to Asia in the summer, at a cost of more than $500,000 to taxpayers.
The overseas trips bring the total cost to taxpayers of Price’s travels to more than $1 million since May, according to a POLITICO review.
Price pledged on Thursday to reimburse the government for the cost of his own seat on his domestic trips using private aircraft — reportedly around $52,000 — but that would not include the cost of the military flights.
Price’s wife, Betty, accompanied him on the military flights, while other members of the secretary’s delegation flew commercially to Europe.
HHS spokeswoman Charmaine Yoest said Price has reimbursed the agency for the cost of his wife’s travel abroad, but declined to say when he did so. Price has been under intense criticism since POLITICO revealed his extensive use of charter aircraft for domestic flights last week. His travel expenditures are subject to reviews by the HHS inspector general and the House Oversight Committee. Democratic and Republican senators have also demanded information about Price’s travel expenditures.
In her interview with Joy Reid today, Hillary Clinton responded to Reid’s question: Did she think any crimes were committed by the Trump campaign? There was “certainly an attempt by many of the Trump associates to hide the connections that they had with representatives of the Russian government and people close to Putin,” she said. “We… Continue Reading →
On CNN Saturday night, Erin Burnett questioned former Director of National Intelligence director James Clapper about Russian interference in the election.
She asked him about Trump’s reaction to those intelligence briefings.
“When we briefed him, if you’re speak of the briefing on the 6th of January, he was very curious, complimentary and he did listen,” Clapper said.
“And frankly, the evidence that we provided in detail –which of course we couldn’t expose publicly– was pretty overwhelming. It’s why we had such a high confidence level in what we said in that assessment. And so I thought it was a good discussion. He had some doubts about some things, but that’s fine to be skeptical about some things. But on balance, I thought we successfully conveyed the message because the substantiating evidence was quite compelling and we didn’t hear anything about the 400 pound guy in his bed in New Jersey.”
“Which is and I think very important, as you said, because I think obviously when he says publicly is different than what you’re describing, which is sort of the way you want an incoming president to respond, courteous and receptive and listen,” Burnett said.
But Clapper wanted to point out the ultimate result of that meeting.
“I have to say, Erin, I think what this was maybe the first or early harbinger of what I think really motivated him is, our intelligence community assessment did, I think, serve to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his victory in the election and I think that, above all else, is what concerned him. I think that transcends, unfortunately, the real concern here, which is Russian interference in our political process, which by the way, is going to continue,” Clapper said.
Got that? The then-DNI director says the evidence was compelling enough to cast doubt on the legitimacy of his election. Not as an inconvenient political perception, but as a fact.
No wonder he’s so edgy.